Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Weekend In Sneem Southwest Kerry

Saturday April 26th;
The weather forecast unfortunately proved to be accurate. The torrential rain that fell overnight had given way to frequent torrential showers. Today Margaret and I were heading for a few days in the excellent self catering apartments in the Sneem Hotel complex in the southwest of Kerry. We had been before and it is a fine spot and the big bonus is that we were able to take Ruby as well. There wasn't much point in setting off too early so we had a leisurely morning at home and we set off around mid-day and drove to Killarney. I had formulated a plan to run a linear section of the Kerry Way from here and Margaret would pick me up and we could continue on our way west. Thankfully by the time we arrived in Killarney the weather was showing a little bit of an improvement in that the gap between the showers was a little longer. Anyway I drove to the first entrance to Muckross park and after a quick change I was ready for the off.

 As I would be almost entirely off road I decided to take Ruby as well. Off we set on the lovely trail that initially hugs the shoreline of Lough Leane before joining the cycle way that circles Muckross Lake. Today this was really quiet thanks to the weather and only the occasional  person out for a stroll was on the route, that is until we reached Dinis Cottage with its tea rooms etc and here a group of children who were having great fun running and shouting and waving sticks, spooked poor Ruby and she disappeared into the nearby maze of bushes and trails and it took me a few minutes to find her again. So with the panic over I continue on and reached the busy ring of Kerry road which we went straight across and joined the steep track that heads up the north side of Torc Mountain. I had been running for 45 minutes by now but if I thought the steep steps would give me a chance to catch my breath I was sadly mistaken. I didn't have a hope of trying to run up here but I tried to maintain a "fast" pace as I rose steeply above the lake. It was bloody tough and eventually I had my hands on my thighs and was pushing on them as I went in order to lessen the strain. I'm not sure how much height is gained here but I would guess around two hundred meters or so. I was really glad to arrive at the point where the trail turns left and traverses across the face of the mountain before eventually arriving back down at the upper carpark above the waterfall. This was a delightful section which was well made and at times dropped fairly steeply until I eventually arrived on the flat section where it joins the Old Kenmare Road. Now the nature of the route changes once again and over the next eight kilometers I went from woodland out into open wild boggy terrain before entering once again a narrow wooded glen. Then once again open bog before another stint in wonderful ancient oak forest and finally open ground once again back to the car. So after a couple of hours and a couple of downpours we arrived at the car where a change of clothes and a delicious apple and cinnamon pancake en-route made for an excellent start to the weekend.
Looking across Lough Leane 

Across Muckross Lake towards Torc

Ruby all business at the top of "The Steps" on Torc

Looking over Muckross Lake and Lough Leane

Looking back on the "Old Kenmare Road"


Approaching the oak woods towards the end.
Sunday April 27th;

I got up reasonably early so that I could have an outing on the hills and still be back in time for myself and Margaret to have a normal holiday day. So with that in mind I drove the four or so miles and opted to do a round of Coomcallee. I parked down a rough little lane and I decided to do the round in an anticlockwise direction so I headed up and across the boggy ground towards Coomnahoma and Gowlanes East. I was expecting a real mucky wet bogfest but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the grass was cropped short and bar the odd spot I was able to enjoy good running conditions. My legs were feeling the aftereffects of the previous days run but they soon loosened out. There then followed a stiff walk to the unnamed summit at 590 meters. Unfortunately the cloud descended before I reached the top and I realized that I had left my map and compass in the car but when I reached the top I decided to follow the easy ridge ahead. This proved to be a mistake and after I had gone about half a kilometer and the cloud lifted I realized that I was heading in the wrong direction and I had to traverse across to the coll above Lough Coomcurrane and then traverse again to the correct coll at Lough Coomeenatierna. What a tit, but it could have been worse. I was actually heading in a northeasterly direction at first when I should have been heading west. Note to self,,remember the map and compass next time. Anyway despite my navigational ineptitude I was back on track and enjoying myself immensely.
Looking into Coomcallee

Looking back towards Sneem

Looking east

From the coll towards the 590 mtr top.
From the coll I now had about a kilometer and a half to cover and two hundred meters to climb before I reached the summit of Coomcallee itself. It is a rather disappointing summit with a broad boggy almost flat top that didn't really merit the detour and certainly didn't inspire one to linger so I now set off on the very pleasant descent. I went due east for about three quarters of a kilometer before the ground drops steeply down the eastern side of the coum that holds Lough Coomcallee. This is a lovely spot and gives one a worthy excuse to stop and rest a while before descending with care down the outflow to the valley floor. a very nice run followed back the remaining couple of kilometers to the car. I was feeling good and had enjoyed the morning greatly. It wasn't a huge effort but at about 10 kilometers and 700 meters of ascent it made me feel that I had had a worthy workout. That afternoon we visited the pre Christian fortification at Staigue. It is an impressive but desolate spot and offers a window into ancient times.
Lough Coomcallee

Back near the car

The very impressive Staigue Fort

Monday April 28th;

I got up this morning feeling the effects of a few beers the previous night not to mention my previous runs but any lingering doubts I had about doing something today vanished when I looked out and saw a gorgeous weather day. Crystal clear air and the mountains framed in a clear blue sky with only a gentle breeze was what greeted me when I left the front door of the apartment. I had opted to leave the car and run as far as Knocknagantee and do a round of its coum. The little lane that leads to the base of the climb was a delight with a profusion of furze and birds, insects and sheep with their lambs my only companions on the way. There was real heat in the air as well and summer seemed to be competing with spring for supremacy. I jogged happily along and the miles slid by. In fact it was over five miles before the road petered out and I started to climb at Derrynagree.Again I opted to do the round in an anticlockwise direction and after I walked in close to Eagles Lough I climbed steeply to the again unnamed top at 636 meters. I must confess to finding the going tough today but my word what a payoff lay in store once I reached the summit. Not only were the views across the coum towards the impressive southeast face of Knocknagantee wonderful and of course the views back towards Sneem and the Beara Peninsula beyond stunning, but the sight of the Reeks rising majestically above the valley beyond Cloon Lough simply took the breath away. I had forgotten how great this view was and I didn't need any excuse to relax for a bit and soak it all in. The entire landscape in every direction was impressive and beautiful and here I was in entirely trackless mountaintop and not another soul to be seen. It felt very special indeed.
The view towards Knocknagantee from the lane

Heading up towards Eagle Lough

The southeastern face of Knocknagatee

Towards the western end of the Everagh Peninsula

Towards The Reeks
After trying to take it all in I set off down steep, grippy, slabby rock to the wonderfully rugged ground by Lough Coomanassig. Some nice little scrambling options presented themselves on the first half of the 200 meter climb before the angle eased and I was able to walk/run to the summit of Knocknagantee at 676 meters. Now by descending west I was able to join the fine metaled track that made the remainder of the descent to the lane a delight. I was tired but on a high and I actually ran the return leg to the apartment considerably quicker than on the way in. So after a total of just over fourteen miles and 800 meters of ascent I arrived back. The long shower and good feed that followed went some way to restoring me and we enjoyed a nice relaxing drive around some of the Beara Peninsula that afternoon. When the weather is like this there are so few places to compare. Indeed we have promised ourselves that the next time we will stay for a week. I'm not sure if my body could take it.
Wonderful rugged ground.

A long run back

Great views in all directions

View from Kilmacalogue Harbour

The entire Everagh Peninsula